Child-Friendly Definitions

Looking for more definitions? Want to be prepared when students ask questions? 

Coming Soon: A vocabulary reference sheet for educators! 


When babies are born, the doctor or midwife looks at their bodies and guesses their gender based on the body parts they see. Sometimes kids grow up and feel like the gender the doctor assigned to them. This is called cisgender. 

Gender is something adults came up with to sort people into groups. Many people think there are only two genders, girls and boys, but this is not true. There are many ways to be a boy, a girl, both, or neither. Some other labels people use when they talk about their gender are transgender, non binary, agender, and genderfluid. When babies are born, the doctor or midwife makes a guess and assigns them a gender, either boy or girl. But no one can know someone's gender just by looking at their gender. Gender means how you feel inside. Some kids grow up and their gender matches how they feel inside. Other kids grow up and their gender does not match how they feel inside. 

Nonbinary (or non binary): 

A gender category that means people feel like both a boy and a girl, or they don't feel like a boy or a girl. 

When we talk about someone, we use their name. We also use something called pronouns. Pronouns are the little words we say when we don't use someone's name. Pronouns are words like he, she, and they. You can't tell someone's pronouns by looking at them. Practice asking someone else what their pronouns are. Practice sharing your own pronouns. Most people will share their pronouns by saying "My name is ___ and my pronouns are ____." 

Sex is a group that adults put babies into when they are born. Doctors look at a baby's inside and outside body parts and assign them a label. The three labels most doctors use are male, female, or intersex. Doctors label a baby as male or female when their body parts fit what doctors think most male or female bodies look like. Doctors label a baby as intersex when the baby's parts don't fit what doctors think most male or female bodies look like. There are lots of different ways for bodies to look, both inside and outside. All bodies are special and unique. There is no right or wrong way to be male, female, or intersex.

For older kids, you can explain that assigned sex at birth doesn't just have to do with outside body parts. It also has to do with hormones (chemicals in our bodies that help our body grow and change as we get older) and chromosomes (tiny thread-like parts of our cells that contain proteins and DNA. DNA is what determines what our bodies will look and act like. For example, your DNA will decide whether you have brown, blue, green, or hazel eyes). People who are male, female, and intersex all have different hormones and chromosomes. 

Sexual Orientation:
This means who you love or who you are attracted to. People can love someone who is the same gender as they are or a different gender than they are.
When babies are born, doctors look at their bodies and assign them a gender based on the body parts they see. Sometimes kids grow up and they realize that their gender identity does not match what they were assigned at birth. This is called transgender. There are lots of ways to be transgender and there is no one right way to do it!